Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Pattern: Symphony Infinity Scarf

I have been champing at the bit to share this new crochet pattern, the Symphony Infinity Scarf.  But I had to practice patience.  (Notice I didn't say "achieve patience.")

I wanted to beta-test this baby out the wazoo, because it is an advanced crochet pattern, and the written directions are complicated.  Plus, I wanted photos for a tutorial, which is included with the pattern.

The idea started out as a blanket, which pattern will be published in due course.

While I was beta-testing the blankie, dear friend Elisa suggested doing something similar in a scarf as well.  So I made this one, just to see how it would work.

Made with Plymouth Encore Colorspun

I like it, especially the interplay of the self-striping colors, but it's a little…pudgy.  This is due to the thickness of the worsted weight yarn as well as the textured crochet stitches.

Nonetheless, I proudly showed it to Elisa, and she suggested doing it as an infinity scarf or cowl, with DK yarn.  I had actually thought about that, but was way too lazy to do it, so I was pretending I hadn't thought about it.  And I was kinda wishing she hadn't, either.

At first.

And then I got the bug.  Because it's a really good idea, so, thank you, Elisa!

I started one with some Sublime yarn I had in my stash, but along the way, Hearthside Fibers contacted me with an irresistible yarn support offer, and they sent me this wonderful, kettle-dyed Polwarth and Silk DK yarn!

I gotta say, I love working with this yarn--and not just because they sent me some gratis.

It's springy and light, cushy, smooth, soft, and so easy to crochet!  And not splitty at all.

And the colors are, dare I say, sublime?

That price tag is for 700 yards, btw, which is a good 200 yards more than I needed for the scarf, which measures 8" wide by 52" around.  (Instructions are included in the pattern for making a shorter or longer scarf.)

The Hearthside people are planning to make up some smaller skeins, which will be easier to wind, too.

They may even make up some kits!  Pretty exciting!

Crochet tends to be a little thick, heavy, and/or stiff compared to knitting, especially if you're making an accessory or a sweater.  But this cowl/scarf drapes beautifully.

It's also relatively lightweight despite having a lot of texture.

So, the pattern is available here in my Etsy shop, and on Ravelry, where you can also get it wholesale if you are an LYS.

And the yarn?  Check out Hearthside Fibers.  (They have other yarns, too.)


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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yarn Migrations in the Wild

Welcome.  Today we study the migratory habits of a non-indigenous coastal yarn species, the Colinette Cadenza.  This yarn originally travelled from Wales to the United States.  Finding a congenial ecosystem, it has proliferated.

This particular sub-species, "Apricot Smoothie," discovered in a sale basket in Tennessee, made its way to the West Coast in a plastic bin.

Some yarns require "binning," as it is known colloquially, longer than others, but eventually they, too, are ready for the long journey from hank or skein to finished object.

Let's take a closer look.

It is late spring, an exciting time for DK and sport weight yarns, as well as fingering and lace.

Here, the DK weight Colinette Cadenza emerges from its cocoon after a long series of winters in the binning phase.

Free now from its protective pouch, the yarn makes its way toward swift and ball winder.

One hank has fastened itself onto the swift, while the others jockey for position below.

The skeins seem eager to be wound.

Tension on the swift?  There should be some, but not too much.

Good news: even though this is Colinette, this hank is not tangled.

Somewhat like the traditions surrounding Groundhog's Day, an easily wound skein is said to predict a good wool harvest and a good shawl design.

But wait!  The ball winder is pulling too hard.  It's the only thing causing the swift to move.  The swift has no momentum on its own.  This light, fluffy yarn is being stretched too tight and thin.

This spells disaster for the life cycle of this yarn species.

Alarmed, the yarn races away from the swift in search of better winding grounds.  Its survival instinct has saved it.  A narrow escape, indeed.

Back to basics:  one adventurous skein has found its way to the portable table swift, which has assembled itself on a nearby coffee table.  The portable swift waits for yarn to come to it, knowing sudden moves can scare off its prey.  This swift's patience has been rewarded.

The ball winder, seeing its opportunity, leaves its perch on the vertical swift.  It now sports a handle instead of a clamp, an evolutionary necessity due to the sensitive nature of the coffee table.

There is some tension and stretching of the yarn here as well--a good reason not to wind one's yarn until one is ready to use it, to minimize stretching time--but at least there is not as much distortion as with the other swift.

And now, yarn wound, it waits.

The gestation of a design can take many months or just a few minutes, or anything in between.  It is impossible to predict.  Many ideas occur in pool or shower, or on long walks.  During such excursions, it is best to leave the yarn at home in a cool, dry location, out of the sun.

Will this particular batch of yarn remain free and ready to knit, or will it be forced to find its way back into a bin, much as a bear returns to its den to hibernate each winter?  Only time will tell.

Next time, join us for "Quilt Gestation:  Why It Takes So Friggin' Long To Quilt One Lousy Quilt."

Friday, June 19, 2015

Patriotic Quilting Sew-In

The local quilting guild had a sewing day, to put together patriotic quilts for veterans.  I was grateful I was free to go.

A couple of people were putting together star squares that had been donated.

I was assigned to the design wall, too, where I got to play with lots of HSTs (half-square triangles)!

There was a huge roll of donated batting, there were bins and bags full of patriotic fabric, most of it donated, I think.

There were kits for making more, and lots of quilts getting finished.

Some people got there at 8:30 a.m. and probably didn't leave until 4 p.m. or later, but I was only there for about 4 hours.  That was my limit, especially since I was on my feet for most of it.

I was exhausted but happy by the time I went home.

Did I take some scraps home to sew?  Yup.  Not all these boxes full, I promise!  Just a few handfuls from each.  And a kit.

Results to be posted soon!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Yummy Yarn

Along the Crochet Way, some nice people at Hearthside Fibers in Wisconsin contacted me, letting me know they offer yarn support (i.e., free yarn;  I am already happy!) for designers who will mention their yarn in their published pattern.

I've been working on an infinity scarf design, and thought one of their yarns would work particularly well for it.  After a few friendly emails back and forth, we settled on their Hearthside Fibers DK Weight yarn, a tonal yarn offering subtle shifts in color, kettle dyed, made from 85% Polwarth Wool (yum!) and 15% silk (yum again!).

I've spun Polwarth fiber before and it's delightful.  Silk isn't too shabby either!  And this wool is from their own sheep in Wisconsin--how cool is that?!  [UPDATE, June 20:  Turns out the Polwarth is not from their own sheep.  In my excitement, I just assumed it was, and now I feel quite sheepish.  Yeah, I bet you saw that pun coming a mile away!]

So, they sent me this luscious skein of over 700 yards.  I tried not to drool on it.  It is hand washable, so it can handle water, but drool is contra-indicated.

The color way is called Anishinaabe, and you may want to click on that and learn more about what that word means.

Luckily, before I started to wind it into a ball, I realized, "Hey, that's never going to work on my little domestic ball winder, is it?"

I wanted to keep it all in one great big beautifully wound ball.  So I was going to use my industrial strength ball winder: my hands.  Center-pull?  No problem.  I just leave a long tail hanging out.

And then I remembered, I have a nostepinne.  Could it handle a ball of this magnitude?  Doubtful.  Do I remember how to use the nostepinne?  No.  But do I like to say "nostepinne"?  Yes.  It's a really fun word.

Off to YouTube to remind myself how to use it.  Thus fortified with knowledge, I put the beautiful skein onto my new swift.  It looked fine.  As in, well-tied, with all the strands going in the direction they were supposed to go.

I have wound hundreds of skeins of yarn.  Most of them go smoothly.  The most challenging exceptions have been from Colinette.  Love their yarn, have often had cause to hate winding it.

Alas, this particular skein rivaled Colinette in its stubbornness.  Was it because it's such delightfully springy yarn?  Was it tangling itself even as I wound it?  Who knows?  Whatever the reason, there were countless tangles and tugs and swift stoppages, requiring constant gentle untangling and reorganizing.

The skein could've been tangled somehow before I began.  Perhaps it was tied into a perfectly respectable-looking skein without the original skein-winder realizing there were tangles.

But it very well could have been me, and my lack of experience with my brand new, fancy-schmancy swift, which seems not to work very smoothly at all, and I'm not yet sure why not.

For now, I'm going to assume this problem had more to do with me and my new swift than with the yarn.

[FURTHER UPDATE:  I am indeed still having trouble with that dang swift.  The yarn is very springy, but it was not originally tangled.  The nice folks at Hearthside Fibers have told me they will be making smaller skeins, too, as 700 yards is too big for the domestic ball winder.  So should you decide to treat yourself to some of this yummy yarn, more than likely you will be able to wind it with no trouble at all.]

But meanwhile, I could see that, as a newbie nostepinner, this was going to take hours and hours of hand winding, especially with tugs and tangles.

So, after some determined noste-practice, I gave up and wound what I could onto my domestic ball winder, until the poor thing was completely overloaded.

I cut the yarn when I needed to, trying not to weep; tears, like drool, are contra-indicated.

I dealt with further yarn tangling, which was a nightmare, and even gave up and wound some with just my two bare hands which is probably what I shoulda done in the first place.

BUT, I ended up with an alluring stack of yarn balls.  Worth every un-tangle!

Anyway, at last I began to crochet, and went straight to heaven.

This yarn is smooth and soft, bouncy and cushy and lightweight, but satisfyingly thick for a DK weight.  It is so much fun to work with!  It isn't splitty at all, and it is not itchy.

I think the finished product is going to be stunning!  The big reveal will come soon;  I am about halfway through the crocheting, and I'm still futzing around with the wording in the pattern, hoping to make it clear.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Goleta Library Show 2015

Our Fiber Arts Guild has taken over the display case again at the Goleta library.  (We did have permission.  It wasn't, "When Fiber Artists Attack.")

That's my Snowstar paper pieced and quilted wall hanging in the upper right corner.  We have some gorgeous samples of felting by Val McLean, weaving and rug hooking and knitting and more by other artists, with a broad sampling of the many tools we use.

If you're in the area, go check it out live!  It will be up until June 30th.

I apologize for the shadowy photos; the lighting in the library entryway is not great, my camera is not great, and the combo is, well, you guessed it, not great.  Machinations in my computer have improved it, but not greatly.

Below, on the left, one of my sample Symphony blankets (a crochet pattern soon to be published), and a sampling of pretty hooks.  On the right, a lovely shawl crocheted by Bev Ryan.

One of the best ways to get your work in the show?  Show up!  It worked for me!  (Well, you do have to be a member of the Santa Barbara Fiber Arts Guild, too.)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy Bee

On the Quilt Shop Tour, we also shopped for our friend, who was working at Quilt Ventura.  She gave us a rule of thumb: jewel-tone batiks.  Of course, once she hands us her money, anything can happen.  I keep threatening to buy her only beige, but she knows I'm teasing.

The theme for the shop hop this year was "Buzzing Along the Central Coast," and here is our friend, in her bee costume, looking very happy with our semi-surprise purchases this year.

And yes, we are already talking about next year's run!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Central Coast Quilt Shop Tour 2015: Hooray!

We did it!  For us, it was our third annual quilt shop tour.  We went to eight shops the first day, three the next.

Here's a sampling of some of the fabrics I bought, not necessarily lined up next to what I am going to combine with what.

I've been eyeing this chevron fabric for weeks at Quilt Ventura.  And the blue on the far left?  Well, I do already have a half yard of it, but I am planning to use it in the scrappy Underground Railroad squares I'm making, and then it will be gone.  Oh, no!  So obviously, I needed to buy more, didn't I?  Since the shop in question happened to have a half yard already cut and ready to go, and since I won't be back there again for a whole entire YEAR!
As I told my friend, I want to have my fabric and use it, too.  Like cake.

These two I just had to add to the stash:

I was pretty sure they would look good with some black rose fabric I bought on sale a few months ago.  Then I found the darker blue fabric on the far right--blue chrysanthemums.  And I am happy to see that some of the first fabric I ever bought, the two paler fabrics with giant flowers, go with these as well.

Could be overkill with the flowers, though, so who knows whether I really will use all of these together.  And I think the colors will pop even more if I throw in a "hotter" one somewhere.

I haven't put away all the fabric yet.  I'm too busy admiring it.  Plus, stuffing it into my already overflowing bins could be challenging.  I really need to organize that closet of mine.  I don't really need clothes, do I?!